The Swedish designer and director Mathias Clason is one of many readers who were touched by the death of Olga Enns from a fall off the stage at the Perm opera theatre. In Russia, there is little safety on stage and no compensation for accidents. The theatre volunteered to pay for Ms Enns’s funeral and for the transportation of her remains to another town, where her sister lives.
Mr Clason was fortunate to survive a similar fall. Here is his report.
ALWAYS REMEMBER IN OPERA: THE GRAVE IS NEARBY
The tragic accident of the fallen director in Perm reminded me of the great director-designer Jean-Pierre Ponelle ending his career in an orchestra pit in Munich, 1988, at 56 - and when I, shortly after, almost did the same.
As an opera or musical designer many restrictions go with the set, risks, heights, railings for surfaces over six feet above stage etc. But the pit? That gigantic swimming-pool DOWN there, full of people, cellos, harps and drums. And above people fencing, dancing, dying- hopefully just pretending to… We build over it at times to create more floor space or hide a shrunken orchestra, we put nets over it so objects and leaves and Macbeth drinking cups should not fall into – but orchestras don´t WANT to have cages and ceilings- they would go deaf.
Well, there I was in 1990. Ponelle just cold. Photo session dragged on, breaks, irritation- oh there´s a nice picture! I happened to be on stage so I backed off with my camera, and I backed- and the floor was gone!
When I awoke – luckily the orchestra was on a stage circus balcony here but the wooden seats started two feet from the four foot high stage, and one of them was in my eye. With its corner. Commercial theatre. Blood. A lot! So I fell back on bulky lightning equipment. And passed out. And woke up. Indians! Twenty at least! Had I been captured? Was it some boy dream? Oh no…I had designed them myself for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN was to open in ten days. I was rushed to the hospital and the show went on. But folks, remember: Don´t get TOO close to the audience
Mathias Clason, designer,director and librettist, Stockholm, Sweden